United States District Court, N.D. Texas, Dallas Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
A. FITZWATER UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
plaintiff Camille Grammer (“Grammer”) moves to
stay this lawsuit pending the payment by plaintiff-counter
defendant Dimitri Charalambopoulos
(“Charalambopoulos”) or his counsel of the
court's attorney's fee award under the Texas Citizens
Participation Act (“TCPA”), Tex. Civ. Prac. &
Rem. Code Ann. § 27.001 et seq. (West 2015), an
anti-SLAPP statute. For the reasons that follow, the
court grants the motion to the extent set out in this
memorandum opinion and order,  vacates the trial setting, and
administratively closes this case for statistical purposes
during the pendency of the stay.
March 2016 the court awarded Grammer $118, 999.61 in
attorney's fees and $2, 308.05 in expenses
(“Award”) incurred in moving to dismiss
Charalambopoulos' suit under the TCPA. In November 2016
Charalambopoulos filed a notice, supported by an affidavit,
stating that he lacks the funds to satisfy the Award. Grammer
now moves the court to condition Charalambopoulos'
continued pursuit of his remaining claims against her on his
or his counsel's payment of the Award, or, alternatively,
upon the posting of a bond in the full amount of the Award.
district court has discretion to stay proceedings on its
docket. See Landis v. N. Am. Co., 299 U.S. 248, 254
(1936). “[T]he power to stay proceedings is incidental
to the power inherent in every court to control the
disposition of the causes on its docket with economy of time
and effort for itself, for counsel, and for litigants.”
Id. The party seeking a stay “must make out a
clear case of hardship or inequity in being required to go
forward, if there is even a fair possibility that the stay
for which he prays will work damage to some one else.”
Id. at 255. “The determination of whether to
stay proceedings is best determined by weighing the competing
interests of the parties and of the Court.”
Miramore Tr. v. United Van Lines, LLC, 2017 WL
661374, at *4 (N.D. Tex. Feb. 17, 2017) (Fitzwater, J.)
(quoting Busk v. Integrity Staffing Solutions, Inc.,
2013 WL 4786254, at *2 (D. Nev. Sept. 5, 2013)).
moves the court to stay this case as to Charalambopoulos'
remaining claims until Charalambopoulos or his counsel pays
the Award in full or posts a bond in the full amount of the
Award. She contends, inter alia, that
Charalambopoulos' opportunity to pursue his claims
against her is an asset that belongs to Charalambopoulos; as
long as this dispute has not yet been litigated to a
conclusion, the potential denial of Charalambopoulos'
opportunity to pursue the litigation creates an incentive for
him to satisfy the Award by whatever means necessary; once
the litigation concludes and the right to further pursue the
litigation has passed, Charalambopoulos' incentive to
satisfy the Award will disappear; unless the court imposes
some consequence for Charalambopoulos' failure to satisfy
the Award, he has no incentive to satisfy it; there is no
undue harm in requiring Charalambopoulos and his counsel to
secure satisfaction of the Award, either via present payment
or an appropriately conditioned bond in the full amount of
the Award; and absent a stay, there will be a very real risk
that the Award will go forever unsatisfied.
responds that Grammer has offered no evidence to contradict
his sworn testimony that he cannot pay the Award; the relief
Grammer requests is a sanction that penalizes him for his
inability to pay, but that Grammer never sought, and the
court never imposed, sanctions against Charalambopoulos or
his attorneys under the TCPA; nothing in the Fee Agreement
between Charalambopoulos and his counsel obligates
Charalambopoulos' counsel to satisfy the Award; and a
stay under these circumstances would deprive Charalambopoulos
of his right to due process, and his inability to pay should
not be used to deprive him of his day in court.
TCPA seeks “to encourage and safeguard the
constitutional rights of persons to petition, speak freely,
associate freely, and otherwise participate in government to
the maximum extent permitted by law and, at the same time,
protect the rights of a person to file meritorious lawsuits
for demonstrable injury.” Tex. Civ. Prac. & Rem.
Code Ann. § 27.002. “To promote these purposes,
[the TCPA] creates an avenue at the early stage of litigation
for dismissing unmeritorious suits that are based on the
defendant's exercise of the rights of free speech,
petition, or association as those rights are defined within
the [statute].” In re Lipsky, 411 S.W.3d 530,
539 (Tex. App. 2013, orig. proceeding). As a corollary to
early dismissal of unmeritorious claims, the TCPA also
mandates an award of costs, reasonable attorney's fees,
and other expenses when the court grants a motion to dismiss
under the TCPA. See Tex. Civ. Prac. & Rem. Code
Ann. § 27.009(a)(1) (“the court shall
award to the moving party: (1) court costs, reasonable
attorney's fees, and other expenses incurred in defending
against the legal action as justice and equity may
require.” (emphasis added)); see also Sullivan v.
Abraham, 488 S.W.3d 294, 299 (Tex. 2016) (“Based
on the statute's language and punctuation, we conclude
that the TCPA requires an award of ‘reasonable
attorney's fees' to the successful movant.”
court has already dismissed several of Charalambopoulos'
claims, holding that they are meritless attempts to suppress
Grammer's First Amendment rights. See, e.g.,
Charalambopoulos v. Grammer, 2015 WL 2451182 (N.D. Tex.
May 22, 2015) (Fitzwater, J.); Charalambopoulos v.
Grammer, 2015 WL 390664 (N.D. Tex. Jan. 29, 2015)
(Fitzwater, J.). It has also awarded Grammer attorney's
fees and costs under the TCPA. See Charalambopoulos v.
Grammer, 2016 WL 915739 (N.D. Tex. Mar. 10, 2016)
(Fitzwater, J.). Charalambopoulos maintains that he cannot
afford to pay the TCPA-mandated Award, and he urges ...